The Lost Year: A Survival Story of the Ukrainian Famine

Roaring Brook. Jan. 2023. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250313607.
Gr 5 Up–Four intertwined narratives explore a family history full of suffering, sacrifice, and secrets. Much of the book explores the events in the early 1930s around the Holomodor (death by starvation) in Ukraine. Mila, Nadia, and Helen are the Lomachenko cousins at the center of the story. Helen is in America; Mila is the daughter of a powerful Communist party member in Kyiv; and Nadia lives with her rural farming family in Ukraine. The story opens in 2020 where Matthew spends a lot of time with his great-grandmother during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in New Jersey, and she shares the untold story of her early life as one of the cousins as they go through her box of memories. Matthew seeks help from his reporter father who is working in Europe. The chapters are titled with the name of the character they feature and include an image, location, and date, which helps keep everyone straight as there are a lot of shifting perspectives. The narrative structure is a bit clunky at times, but the story is compelling.
VERDICT With appealing connections to a family living in the time of the pandemic and insight into the history of Ukraine, this striking work of historical fiction dives into the importance of telling one’s story and preserving the history of everyday people.

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